President Obama will be meeting today with AG Eric Holder and community and civil rights leaders about Ferguson and the state of policing in black communities.
President Barack Obama will discuss the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, Monday with his Cabinet, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and others.
The White House says Obama’s Cabinet meeting will focus on his administration’s review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to law enforcement agencies.
The White House says the president will also meet with young civil rights leaders to discuss the challenges posed by “mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.” He’ll then meet with government and law enforcement officials, as well as other community leaders, to discuss how to strengthen neighborhoods.
The question for the assembled is “Will this actually accomplish anything?” This is definitely an Obama-style response to the issue, but will a community organizer approach actually accomplish any of the stated goals?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Ta-Nehisi Coates or Jamelle Bouie or Jelani Cobb when it comes to eloquently defining the struggle over the last 400 years and how Ferguson is yet another chapter in our story, and I’m certainly far from somebody like Goldie Taylor (who is crowdfunding a documentary on her hometown of East St. Louis called #89BLOCKS) when it comes to community activism. I’m an IT guy who gets to grouse on the internets and occasionally somebody pays attention.
But it seems to me that the first thing we need to do is get the mindset out of our police departments that they are conducting counterterror operations in hostile, foreign territory. Ferguson, Missouri is not Fallujah, The whole thing, the training, the surplus military gear given to police departments, the us vs them mentality where cops think the people they are sworn to protect and serve are The Enemy, that needs to be ripped out from these departments.
That brings us back to the President and today’s meetings. It’s a good start and any solution to the completely valid mistrust of police by the black community must involve police and the black community, but what else can and must be done to stop the bad cops (and not all cops are the problem, mind you, but the ones that are constitute a deadly lethal issue)?
Where are we going on this?
Good ideas, well written.
Edit …. And an advantage that you just displayed over Coates and others that you referenced is that you made a very important point with an artful economy of words.
Please keep that up.
Whenever you are trying to deal with a deepseated mindset, you are going to run into problems. Trying to change the mindset of one person is difficult enough. When you are trying to get rid of a mindset of a large group, such as trying to make whole police departments view their jobs differently, it becomes near impossible.
When looking at the thinking which turns any black community into hostile territory, it doesn’t matter how many good things are done. All it takes is one black gang member to destroy any good will built up. at present, perhaps the best you can do is reduce the ability of police to over react in an almost military manner, create some cross line communications and create at least the sense of cooperation from both sides.
I don’t know what the next steps should be, but I know that snarking about Obama having “a meeting” isn’t one of them.
Amen to that. I am about 40 miles away from Ferguson, just over the river in Illinois. There is almost no crime by me. I more often than not don’t even lock my front door. Running (in my car) to Thanksgiving with my family Saturday, I got a frantic call from my brother that he needed me to pick up a few things. Pulled into a Wal-Mart.
What do I see in the front of the store? One of those huge MRAP military vehicles. On the side it said:
My first thought was WTF do we need that for? My second was, there isn’t anybody even in it, is it just set out there in “scare” people?
Oh the times we live in …..
@RP: Not snarking, threw in Rare Sincerity and Readership Capture tags for a reason.
Yes, all (or almost all) cops are the problem, to the huge extent that all (or almost all) of them choose to allow the “bad cops” to go on being bad, and support the “bad cops” when their particularly awful badness is protested.
On my FB some ex-cop (who apparently advises actors on TV shows on how cops behave, hold their weapons, etc) said that the first rule of being a cop was to get home safe. And if anything was keeping you from that goal, you “fucking destroy it.”
Which, to me, is pretty much the opposite of the mentality cops should have. And until someone is willing to fire every cop who believes it and train new cops who don’t and who won’t believe it, who will see disrespect to them as part of the job that the have to defuse, not as an incitement to arrest and pain, then we’re not going anywhere.
And that’s BEFORE we talk about the structural racism and the way cops treat people of color. But as long as cops think people should be punished for merely disrespecting them (a la the Rams) then we won’t get anywhere. And until the public stops thinking “when you mess with a cop you’ll get shot,” as if being rude or even hostile to a cop means you deserve to die, we also won’t get anywhere.
It’s not just about cops, it’s also about the way white people allow cops to be the way they are by reinforcing the paradigm.
@Lee Rudolph: Valid, valid point.
@Amir Khalid: To be fair, the whole “We’ll have a meeting” “community organizer approach” business definitely qualifies as snark. I disagree with RP, however, when he says that snark has no place here.
How can people worry about civil rights when the liberal bootjack is on the neck of the 1st Ammendment?
Sadly, it’ll galvanize all the wingnuts even more.
I didn’t read it as snark because it was literally true. Zandar himself says #6 it wasn’t meant as snark.
And it already has. Glenn Beck’s comparing the Rams players to Algier Hiss and the infiltration of the Communists after World War II.
One of the statistics that I came upon in the news recently was that it is pretty much the safest time since the advent of what we know as law enforcement for the people that enforce the law.
Things need to change.
There must be the ability to gather information about police shootings.
There must be a return to actual community policing and an encouragement to hire people who live in the areas policed.
Draconian drug laws need to be abolished.
Big pharma and doctors must be held to the same standards as some kid selling pills on the street.
@Lee Rudolph:Darren Wilson is a pussy who never should have been given a badge or allowed to carry a gun. To the extent that other cops support him and what he did paints them with the same brush. We should point that fact out to the “good cops”***.
*** and yes, they exist.
@Amir Khalid: Being literally true, which it absolutely is, does not make it any less snide. The central point of this article is that we’ve seen this song and dance before, and will anything actually come from it this time, and it’s written with a thinly-veiled (if veiled at all) sneer. I saw Zandar’s comment, and I’ve no doubt he really believes that, but it’s still snark. And I think it should be snarky, because deadly serious topics where one side is indulging in blatant dishonestly tend to benefit from sarcasm and satire.
This times eleventy brazillion.
When the “good cops” are willing to accept a threshold level of corruption from any other cop, they really aren’t very “good” at all. Rather than a problem of “good cops” vs. “bad cops”, it’s a culture of bad cops protecting the worst cops from any sort of accountability.
I see this mentality as the inevitable consequence of the War on Drugs.
Suddenly, policing isn’t about investigating crimes and helping people, it’s about hunting down the baddies THERE (in the black inner cities where jobs are hard to come by and the money to be made from selling is more likely to seem worth the risk) to prevent harm HERE (in the white, middle-class areas where kids with bad impulse control may take drugs). Before that, crime was local, and cops either ignored inner cities or saw them as poorer versions of the rest of the world — mostly good people and a few crooks.
Not saying militarization isn’t a problem. It’s just that it got its appeal because police weren’t seeing black people as second-class citizens anymore already. They were seeing them as the enemy.
Question: Have the police in the US always carried guns?
Violent crime has been falling for years, yet police oppression has continued, if not worsened. I don’t think this is something that’s just evolving. Whose interests are being served? We already know that the MIC makes out when military hardware is given to police forces. Who else? And what particular interests are served by targeting minority (particularly black) communities? The 1% obviously want the rabble controlled, but for them the rabble is the 99%. Why minorities? Sorry to be so conspiracy-minded, but I’m having a bad gout attack and tend to be very suspicious of others and their motives when I’m in pain.
Good news everyone it appears the land of Facebook has moved into the “Here’s a white kid murdered by a black man” phase and away from the pictures of the wrong black person phase when expressing their racism. Unfortunately just like the last cycle they still are unaware that the issue is whether or not the killer in question was arrested, or even punished for their deeds rather than let free to collect the bounty.
Big ole hound
Take unions away from the police forces and allow city governments to put officers on UNPAID leave if they fire their weapon at anyone until the matter is investigated in a timely matter. Then dismiss them from the force if necessary. I know there is a potential for anyone to have a weapon (thanks NRA) but the answer might be to instruct officers to aim for a non-lethal leg area in most cases.
@debbie: Good. The more together they are the easier it will be to round them up. For FEMA camps.
For starters we need to explain to the “No Justice, No Peace” crowd that war is the health of the state, and nothing justifies a police state like violence. How do they think Reagan, Guiliani, etc. got elected in the first place?
I read the headline as snark.
I think that this racism and excessive militarization will not go away until we truly kill the Culture of Fear that we live in. We are all so pants-shittingly afraid, all the time, that it seems normal. Fear warps your mind, makes excessive reactions seem sensible, makes you jump to conclusions.
Police officers are just as afraid as we are, maybe even more so. And racism is part but not all of the problem. We fear terrorism, shootings, rape, mayhem, disease, “chemicals”, vaccines, car wrecks, plane crashes. And the media feeds our fear, all the time. We have cultural PTSD.
my comment at #16 is still in moderation. I used the dreaded “P” word. The one that is spelled like “hussy”.
I was watching “The Streets of San Francisco” yesterday and it struck me (as it does every time I see a Vintage program) how much of the show was editorializing for greater police powers. We now live in a police state where all those powers have been granted AND A HALF. Yesterday’s plot-point conflict had to do with a scruffy psycho who was trying to trick a cop into hurting him so he could have him fired for brutality. Such a sweet, innocent time when that was even a possibility as a fucking plot point.
Seconded to the max.
I’ve heard all the “just a few bad apples” nonsense, and it’s a crock. Good cops back up bad ones because if they don’t, backup for the good ones may not be there when they really need it. Plus, at least according to some articles I’ve read, the guy who is a complete shit to ordinary citizens may be exactly the guy you want behind you when you have to break down a door. Then there’s just the general cop view of us (the boys and girls in blue) versus them – that is, us mundanes out here.
To the extent that police departments differ in their policies and practices, the difference is usually due to the people at the top of the departments and the community in which a particular department is located. If a department chief makes it clear up front that corruption, gratuitous brutality and haphazard use of firearms, tasers, etc will not be tolerated, such practices will be minimized. If not, then not. It’s still a matter of discretion as opposed to a legal “thou shalt not”, however.
As a practical matter, though, I fear that particular train has long since left the station. Police personnel have the power to do pretty much as they please, and it’s a lot harder to get people to give up power than it is for them to acquire power in the first place*. In that horrible case in Georgia in which the cops threw a flash bang grenade into a baby’s crib, the sheriff and his underlings have pretty much said “sorry about that, but we’re going to go on conducting raids exactly the same way”. No grand jury indictment in that case, either.
By the way, the MIC does NOT benefit when police forces get the excessive hardware. They get NADA because they were already paid when the military bought the equipment. The surplus giveaways happen when the military upgrades and disposes of the now obsolete or something like we finish up in Afghanistan and don’t want to abandon all this good stuff over there to possibly be misused by enemies, but don’t really have any use for it here either. Its a kind of recycling program because it bugs people to just trash the surplus but in many cases that would be best because no one except a military really can use it. People have trouble accepting sunk costs.
Maybe they would pay attention more before we got in anymore stupid wars, if they saw us doing the smart thing and burning the excess now.
The Federal thing that should be done is make the drug laws saner but Congress is broken so it’s a problem. The rest of it is a local evaluation on how all the local entities police are doing and then fixing whatever is wrong. Quality varies widely. It would help make things appear to not be just a hate cops movement if we could find some forces that are mostly OK and then go after targeted problems. ST Louis apparently needs to consolidate into one big metro area and police force. How does one go about that?
Reforming the drug laws IMO is a lot more complicated than legalize and tax. MJ sure. Most of the rest is a medical person would call seriously flawed in safety and having no recognized benefit. FDA will never approve ones that cause random deaths to more than a certain miniscule % for instance nor should they. I want to see some serious lists spelling out multiple kinds of recreation drugs and proposed status as well as actual dangers…discussion of how Marijuana could have legal status including age restrictions and smoking laws for starters. I hate smoke and love not having to put up with it in public anymore and I would include Marijuana in the things I don’t want messing with my breathing even though I don’t believe it’s dangerous to most am am very tired of it being used to jail so many black men. So talk about smoking laws and intoxication laws too. I don’t want people under the influence of anything on the road with me or my family.
Drug laws are a big reason IMO for the over militization of cops, the lousy police/black community relations and some of the erosion of Civil liberties and privacy issues.
Us whites are rather easy to control. In the 50s we had communism, and when that doesn’t work, we have minorities. Use the police to control minorities, and then tell the whites “You’re not like them, are you? You’re not going to do anything like them that would get you in trouble, are you?”
@Big ole hound: Eh, going after the unions just sounds like a further way to weaken public-sector unions in general.
The unions, like any union, are serving the interests of their members; that’s what they’re supposed to do. The question is why the rest of us automatically go along with it.
(Also, I get the impression that “aim for the leg” is good way to miss entirely, which does no good; and whenever somebody says that in an argument about police shootings, it gives an opening for the classic “You Know Nothing About Guns” derailment. To my mind the alternative to shooting people is to find a way, where possible, to not shoot them, not to shoot them non-lethally.)
All I know is that whatever happens, Obama gets dumped on. I got halfway through what seemed to be a good article by Michael Dyson in the New York Times yesterday, only to come upon the usual Obama-bashing and lumping him together with Bill Cosby (as our blog host also did).
Obama is a saint and a martyr. There, I said it.
The first “police” forces in the US, e. g. in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were night watches. Boston’s dates from the 1630s; the only weapons used, if any, were clubs.
When the first modern police forces were formed — Boston’s dates from the 1830s — clubs and night-sticks were issued. For a while — twenty years or so — individual policemen were allowed to carry their own guns unofficially; but the Boston Police Department did not officially issue guns to policemen until the 1880s.
In short: policemen in Boston have been issued guns for about 130 years.
@Cacti: Talk radio harps about teachers’ unions but fail to mention the danger of bad cops being protected.
While governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge came to national attention largely because he broke a policemen’s strike, firing everyone and hiring replacements. He rode that train all the way to the White House. It was a shameful thing.
@Cervantes: Thanks! Because I do know that Bobbies in London and the constables in Mumbai on their usual local rounds do not typically carry guns.
When I see Obama on TV these days I cannot help but be reminded of Tintoretto’s “Christ before Pilate”.
Obama’s main sin was to campaign on the theme of hope, the idea that this country can change for the better. Now I am convinced that this country suffers from a genetic defect which was present at the very moment of its conception. There is no cure, and no real treatment. The best we can hope for is some superficial alleviation of symptoms.
The people in law enforcement that I’ve spoken with say there are just too many cowards out on the street. They’re not shooting unarmed men and boys because they think they’re in Iraq.
They’re shooting them because the men they kill represent all of the things that make them shit their pants, and they’re fairly certain they won’t face any unpleasant consequences for their actions.
IMHO, the first step is easy:
Body cameras on all cops. Having them deliberately tampered with or turned off can get someone fired. A 3rd party stores & retrieves all footage.
@Cervantes: Although I sympathize with the unions, I get frustrated seeing teachers get bashed but not bad cops by the whackos. The police union stood by while teachers lost benefits in Wisconsin.
As far back as anyone can remember yes they have carried guns
The St Louis paper has an article about the group the Oath Takers. It seems they showed up in Ferguson on Tuesday and took up positions on roof tops to protect the good citizens. According to the article they came equipped with weapons that you could not buy at Walmart. It took the cops 6 days before they forced the group to leave. I wonder at the reaction if that had been the new black panthers providing ‘protection’ for the good citizens.
There is a report that a couple of NBP members were arrested on charges of planning to assassinate local officials.
Was criticizing Coolidge and defending the labor movement.
Wasn’t defending or attacking police unions as they function today — either internally within police forces or externally on the larger political stage.
And needless to say, I agree that when distinctions can be drawn, “good cops” who protect “bad cops” are not “good cops.”
There’d be piles and piles of dead new black panthers.
@Cervantes: Dennis Lehane wrote a decent story about that time period, The Given Day.
It’s the same as a lot of the racism in our society: it serves the interests of middle and lower income whites who see their racial privilege being eroded. It doesn’t necessarily serve their economic interests very well- though giving large numbers of minorities criminal records that make them effectively unemployable at most decent paying jobs probably helps whites at least a little- but it does serve their desire for privilege. Of course it also serves the interests of the very wealthy, who keep poor people at each others’ throats rather than focusing on how they’re all being screwed in the name of corporate profits.
@beltane: Not the entire country, but major swathes of it, especially the parts that seceded from the Union, 150 years ago.
@Shakezula: Right-wing media has pretty much turned a whole generation of white men into a group of fragile, easily frightened bedwetters. It was funny (not) to see the police apologists on DKos claim that the protests in Ferguson could be infiltrated by ISIS. Such a skeery, skeery world we live in.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@JPL: Everybody knows that not terminating a bad teacher is far more insidious to society than not terminating a bad LEO. Duh. Of course the fact that LEOs are more likely than teachers to be friendly to the right and far right is strictly coincidental.
@Shakezula: Clearly there are lots of fearful LEOs working today. and add in the sometimes less fearful combat vets and you have a lethal force, by mindset alone. Let’s arm them heavily, and make sure there are few consequences for maiming and killing the public. What could possibly go wrong?
@Lee Rudolph: Yes. No one expects perfection from large organizations but we wouldnt have these problems (rioting) if the community thought it was being heard and respected. If dangerous cops were monitored and fired after legitimate complaints were registered and noted. Its not ok for training to be aimed at policing a histile population of proto criminals. We need a return to community policing and beat walking as well as some kind of rule about cops coming from/living in the communities they are policing. If a police officer is only known by the people he attacks, injures, arrests, or kills and is otherwise unknown and untrusted by the community that is an enormous problem. It should be quantified and seen as a problem. Lets begin by creating a set of best practices/happy and safe community metrics like the fucking ed reformers forced on the public schools. Lets give the police departments failing grades or high praise/rewards when they have too many lawsuits, brutality complaints, needless deaths or, conversley, when the community supports them and trusts them. Collect the data and quantify and publish the problem. Then tie it to funding and training.
What the hell? Even for Beck, that’s crazy.
Iowa Old Lady
@Citizen_X: That makes me just crazy (though not as crazy as Beck). So they don’t like what happened in the streets of Ferguson, and they don’t like peaceful protest. That leaves what? Sit down and shut up? Or possibly, ok with the peaceful protest but not where they might accidentally see it?
@Citizen_X: It doesn’t make sense on any level, but I’m sure that to Glenn Beck’s sublimely ignorant fan base it all sounds good.
Except their union would NEVER agree to this. Not to mention, “deliberately” is subjective; methinks that every controversial encounter with a suspect would end up with the camera “inadvertently” switched off while the Brave Policeman (TM) is protecting the public. Not to mention, they’d need to be turned off during bathroom visits, breaks, and of course, “forgotten” to be turned back on.
Anything the union would agree to would have enough loopholes, exemptions, and “privacy concerns” to drive a cruise ship through, and render it moot in most of the controversial encounters.
I think the media would have put the scare quotes around ‘good’ instead of ‘protection’ in that case. The New Black Panthers would have been trying to protect black people from police brutality, which would be seen as criminals protecting each other.
Yes, he did.
I don’t read a lot of fiction any more — I have enough trouble filtering it out of the things I do read — but Lehane’s is a good book. Glad you mentioned it; I forgot to.
Batteries would run out of power, too, at the drop of a hat.
As they have at the drop of an unarmed teenager.
Material self-interest often, even usually takes a back seat to ego. How many people jettison their entire lives because they just have to be mean, arrogant shits? Ego and material interest tend to overlap, but when they don’t, bet on ego.
Or, the same as @Roger Moore said.
EDIT – @Iowa Old Lady:
It leaves black people being murdered at the whim of a white person. That’s what they want, some because they hate blacks, some because they get off on the power fantasy.
Needs more teeth.
Tampering with them should be chargeable as misdemeanor or felony obstruction of justice for any offending officer. And if tampering is suspected, officers should be suspended without pay until any investigation is concluded.
Otherwise, I agree with your post. There’s a reason cops hate cameras. Somebody needs to be watching the watchmen.
This. The people in Ferguson aren’t rioting over the murder of Michael Brown. They’re rioting over large-scale oppression by the police, and the murder of Michael Brown was just the final thing that got people mad enough to start rioting.
@Cacti: Heck, I’d hate working with a camera recording my every move, too! Anyone would.
But I don’t have the power to kill people, or brutalize people, and generally get away with it as a regular feature of my job. That power demands extra scrutiny.
If those cops are whining about “outside agitators” then they very much need to also distrust and dismiss “outside supporters” as equally unworthy and useless and to be ignored. Those “oathkeepers” are equally dangerousdangerousdangerouseekeekeek and require an eqivalent rapid response as other gun-totin’ elements on the street. Expressions of police support from states and occupations having nothing to do with events should be equally ‘condemned’ by the PD unions as being prejudicial to the local’s community internal grass-roots ‘healing’ with equivalent threats of economic sanctions for thought-crimes.
But, no, certain PDs have assumed the mantle of establishing not only what is lawful, what is the law and what are the outcomes of the judicial process (“He had it coming to him.”) but have garbed themselves in constitutional robes (“That is free speach that must submit to economic sanction.”) and the dog-collars of moral authority (“Thus thinkith good people.”).
@Matt McIrvin: you’d think they’d want it, because their job is “dangerous” and “every day they’re in the line of fire”
@Iowa Old Lady:
This is just an example of the political correctness of the right. Certain discussions, like police reform, are taboo.
@beltane: Now that gold’s value is declining, he’s going after that lucrative tinfoil futures market.
@beltane: I’d say that the right-wing media is just the latest and most efficient way to turn people who already run around sharting in fear into a source of money and political power.
The only thing that has fluctuated a little bit throughout history is the race/nationality of the BAD PERSON who is going to murderape the pure white family.
Oh gag. And I bet the Venn diagram of those people and people who are OUTRAGED(TM) by drone strikes and NSA overreach has a lot of overlap. Fuck them.
That article was very disturbing.
The stupidity of police (Ferguson or St. Louis County?) speaking to Oath Keeper members and thinking it was a good idea to allow them to stay on rooftops is unfathomable. Then it took media questions to spur St. Louis Co officers to order them to leave on Saturday. The OK members argued so the officers had to threaten them with arrest.
OK member said they thought the police were going to do the right thing and park National Guard at businesses but they didn’t. OK members finally left rooftops Sat afternoon with a spokesperson saying they were going back as protesters. “Historically the government almost always fails to protect people.”
Did it not occur to the police department(s) that this group and others like it are loose cannons and are not their compadres, just likely as not to turn on the police as others?
My gut feeling is that in practice it would be enough to make an adverse inference (i.e. assume the police were covering something up) if the recording is unavailable. Essentially, you’d change the rule of evidence to say that police are not allowed to testify about events that can’t be corroborated by official recordings. The net result would be that police accused of brutality would wind up being fired unless they had a recording that backed up their version of events, and a lot of criminal charges against suspects would wind up being thrown out unless their was a recording. Changing the rules that way also has the advantage that it wouldn’t need to be collectively bargained, since it would be a move on the part of the courts rather than the police department.
Hell, yeah. Community-based policing was one of those panaceas to the crime wave that peaked ~25 years ago, and it was one of the responses that actually made sense. I’ve been wondering lately whatever happened to it, because it seems like the cops come into black neighborhoods like they were the Imperial Sardaukaur from Dune.
@Aimai: I wish I had more faith in walking a beat to make cops see the people they are supposed to protect as people, but some just need a different job. We had a fantastic beat cop for years, then he was promoted or moved and we got a new one who was a psycho.
Our library is right near one of the subsidized housing sections, and he would call people who lived there, and the kids went to the public schools (especially at the high school a block up the street) “animals.” He also complained a lot about how he couldn’t get an education job because he had a degree from a different university (uh, no, how about you think the kids are “animals?”). He was just a nasty piece of work, would stop by “to check in” and then bitch about politics (to librarians–he was also an idiot), and act as though he was doing us a big favor “making sure we were safe.”
Here’s the thing: you get plenty of troubled and sometimes even dangerous people in a public library, but mostly, you just get people–people having a good day, people having a sucky day, people who are looking for a little quiet, people who just want to post pictures to Facebook, people who want to apply for jobs. Just people. And I am the first to say that people are annoying a LOT of the time–but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fellow human beings.
One sense you hone very quickly as a public librarian is who is a problem and who is having a problem that day. You really only have to worry about the former, and you can tell who they are pretty quickly to keep an eye on them. And while there’s a chance cops could hone the same sense on a beat, and should, the guy we had never would because he didn’t see these majority black citizens as people at all.
How do you make sure those guys aren’t placed as cops, when you’re understaffed and pay so poorly that your police chief, who has spent 40 years on the force in your community, takes a job in another city so he can help pay for his grandkids to go to college? It just all seems so irreparably fked up.
@Bobby B.: Streets of SF was punching hippies back before it was fashionable.
@low-tech cyclist: I’m a fan of the Japanese Koban model- have cops sitting in little sheds all day drinking tea. They’re there when you need em, not all amped up and angry looking for trouble when you don’t.
Body cameras are definitely not enough. As Zandar suggests, a massive retraining of police needs to happen but I’m not sure who’s going to do it or whether there’s enough support for it (so many on the right seem happy with the status quo, as the sheer amount of money Darren Wilson has raised shows).
I just saw the video that the Washington Post released of 12 year old Tamar Rice’s shooting in Cleveland Ohio for carrying a toy gun in a public park. It shows a young black boy shot by police within three seconds of their arrival. The level of fear there blows my mind. The cop who fired the shot was a rookie and apparently thought the 12 year old was 20. Maybe rookies shouldn’t be immediately armed. Maybe all police should wear body armor so they feel safer. Maybe the media shouldn’t focus on criminalizing victims (in Tamar’s case, by publishing articles about his parents’ history of domestic violence in a weird bid to excuse his murder). Maybe all of the above. But something has got to change.
I think it was more about nostalgia for a pre-Miranda Rights police force.
I remember quite a bit of hand wringing, as a kid in the 1980’s, about how crime was not so bad, when cops could crack some skulls together and get criminals to confess.
George HW Bush got elected President, in 1988, by playing on this law-and-order fetish about locking up those people and throwing away the key and everything would be good like it was a generation earlier.
Love this idea.
The ones that aren’t a DIRECT lethal issue are still nigh-undoubtedly aware of their dangerously violent colleagues. They don’t report the problem, so they ARE THE PROBLEM as well. Until “good cops” stop covering up for the bad ones, they aren’t “good cops”…
@bemused: Apparently it also didn’t occur to the police that delegating police powers to non police members will produce dead bodies on the street through extrajudicial killings of random passersby. Or perhaps this didn’t strike the police as a problem.
@Keith G: I think Coates has to write at the length that he does just to marshal the amount of evidence he needs to defend his statements. When you say that white supremacy is still hard-coded into US culture; that cultural peculiarities of African-American behavior are 0% responsible for black Americans’ especial problems today; and that slavery was a robust and fabulously profitable institution that was necessary for the building of America as we know it, a majority of white people will still take those as extraordinary statements that require extraordinary evidence. But he just batters down your defenses with sheer bibliography. It makes it possible for others to be pithy.
The greatest state power demands the tightest (even unto video) scrutiny? If the question ever ends up in litigation, it would be interesting to watch the Supreme Court square that circle … again.
@tesslibrarian: Ideally a beat cop that you knew so well would have been reported by you to his supervisors and removed for the “animals”comment. At least having a beat cop means that ordinary citizens do come into contact with these guys before they shoot someone and have a chance to report/censure/educate them. Without that? There’s no chance to catch a Darren Wilson before he decides to exit his car and shoot someone.
Have you watched Fox News at any point in the last 6 years? That’s the mindset for about 40% of the nation. Getting it out of our police departments won’t happen until we get it out of our national psyche.
@gene108: Nostalgie d’une fantasie.. I mean, wasn’t reality exactly in all detailsexactly like the B&W TV shows and movies certain people watched as children?!
I expect the right to attack him but I am pretty sick of all the BS from the left. We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by indulging in the “I’m so disappointed I won’t vote” nonsense in 2010. It was a huge, tragic, incredibly stupid mistake. We gave up the House, state legislatures and governorships in the same year as a census. It is going to take a decade to regain that lost ground if we are lucky.
For a police department that seems to be doing it right…
Sure, but the devil is in the details. This is what is happening in Washington state, where they are using body cameras:
That last sentence is a thing of beauty.
ETA link: http://mynorthwest.com/11/2642592/Mans-requests-for-thousands-of-police-bodycam-videos-bogging-down-departments
Here’s the skinny on the “Cop Who Tweeted” and guess what he’s a Democrat. I guess all the racist assholes aren’t rethugs — we’ve got a few of our own.
Yes, but 1988 was not unique in this regard. Crime, included under the rubric of “law and order,” was a primary campaign tool in the 1968 election season and appeared prominently also in 1976 (Mo Udall’s declining to use it that way being a glaring exception). It was less an issue in 1972, 1980, and 1984, despite Nixon and Reagan (and henchmen) being among the worst criminals the world has seen.
If this is actually covered by FOIA and can be released publicly, they should just dump everything on YouTube and call it a day.
So much political mischief happened just as a result of street crime exploding from the 1960s to the early 1990s, with the worst period coming right on the heels of the civil rights movement, the Great Society and the Warren Court’s decisions about rights of the accused. It was hard for many people not to draw causal inferences there, and it was hard to argue against them.
This is why I’m hesitant to name the rise of the hardcore law ‘n’ order sentiments as nothing but bigotry; the forms in which they appeared were largely conditioned by bigotry, but people had good reasons to be scared of crime in those days.
Today it’s easier to dismiss those inferences, because the drop in crime starting in the mid-1990s seems so disconnected from any obvious cause that one seeks out other explanations (and so disconnected from continued media fearmongering about crime that it’s easier to see that as delusional). Mass incarceration may well have played a role in the drop, but the crime wave rolled on for a decade and a half after it really kicked into high gear.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer putting out a piece on the legal history of Tamir Rice’s parents is one of the ugliest and most brazen acts of victim blaming that I’ve ever seen.
It’s not just that it was put out to muddy the waters. It’s that it was wholly irrelevant to his shooting at the hands of local law enforcement. When the cops radioed that they thought he was 20, they obviously had no idea who Tamir or his parents were.
I think the police departments would be a good place to start. They allegedly serve and protect “us.”
I also think that cameras, and this Koban approach, would probably get rid of the officers who simply cannot deal with people at all. If you are so scared of black people (or other different people) that you cannot sit in a booth stationary in the middle of a neighborhood, then police work isn’t for you. And in a world where every cheap cellphone has a camera, to think that cameras on you would inhibit your work is futile to say the least.
Yes, that too. Clearly the police leadership making these kind of decisions need to go but will that ever happen.
He’s a private citizen seeking public information.
I can see a number of reasons you wouldn’t just dump this on the internet, for example, footage that’s being used in an ongoing investigations, interactions with minors and victims of sexual assault.
And as someone who thinks copudramas are fucked up, bullshit disclaimers about innocent until proven guilty aside, I think they need to weigh the potential impact on people who are arrested against someone’s Need to Know. Sure, you can put a disclaimer on like they do for copudramas, but people already lose their jobs for non-crimes like posting pictures of themselves drinking a beer on FB. What’s going to happen to someone who is arrested, even if they aren’t charged?
But I can’t think of any reason ALL of the footage would be exempt from a FOIA request. But someone needs to through it and make that determination.
Full metal Wingnut
@RP: I don’t think you understand what snark means.
@MomSense: I don’t think anyone who votes regularly, as a democrat, in midterm elections stayed home. That’s a myth. The people who didn’t vote in the 2010 or 2014 midterms never vote in those midterms: that’s poor people, single women, young people, single issue voters who manage to pull themselves out of their armchairs to vote on something like marijuana or gay marriage but not on other things because they aren’t networked in on taxes, militarism, police issues, minimum wage etc..etc…etc… We can blame that on the fact that Democrats don’t do a good job of laying out a national vision that excites poor people/minorities/single women every two years. And we can blame that on the fact that such people are often not in a position to register and vote (voter suppression, cost of voting relative to job situations) or just disaffected or not yet old enough to care.
Nowhere anytime soon. The ultimate fix requires wholesale changes to how we recruit, train, and evaluate cops, and unless you’re prepared to immediately fire everybody and make them re-apply under the new hiring criteria, it will take 25-30 years for the changes to propagate fully.
And as long as state laws regarding use of force in self-defense are as pro-shooter as they currently are, policing the police will continue to be a Quixotic exercise. Darren Wilson walked because the Missouri Legislature stacked the deck in his favor. Which means that part of the solution requires left-leaning Democratic majorities in state legislatures. That is surely a long-term project.
This is exactly what is starting to happen already.
I am all in favor of police being required to carry video, and having the recordings maintained by a third-party, but I get a bit queasy about those recordings being freely available on YouTube. There will be a gazillion police recordings of completely innocent people in distress that have no business ever being posted on YouTube in the supposed name of “the public interest”.
And they’re doing precisely what most of ‘us’ want them to do. Shorter conservative mindeset: shooting black people is a feature, not a bug.
That is true, but you are missing the point. He is a private citizen who wants to remain anonymous, but is choosing which police videos he/she posts to YouTube. Not much transparency there.
The person posting those videos looks like a piece of work to me:
We don’t need anonymous citizens secretly deciding which police videos end up on YouTube. I’m in rare agreement with a police chief:
Absolutely, but it’s an interesting and necessary step in the process. There will be some fascinating new directions that come from this.
And if I were a sociologist or criminal justice researcher, I’d request every second of video that comes from a state. What a great objective dataset to work from on police biases. Expensive as hell to analyze given the volume, but its a goldmine.
Private citizens have no expectation of privacy. Public institutions do – and rightfully so. The problem is where they intersect:
Yep. There will be a lawsuit over public rights to this video. My guess is that it’ll get narrowed down to an unimplementable standard: only the people in the video or property owners where the video was shot and law enforcement have a FOIA right to the video in order to protect the rights of private citizens. So, how do you determine if the requestor is in the video?
Wonder how much longer Son of Steve Cole the one man angry mindless mob and the rest of the rage tag bunch half a$$ed bloggers here are going to continue to try milk this Ferguson thing before moving on to other click bait.
@Shakezula: I’ve heard similar things, and WIlson’s behavior (and not just in the Michael Brown case) bears this out. Everything is a “threat”, and all “threats” call for an over-the-top response, because they have no ability to calibrate.
@Felanius Kootea: I couldn’t bear to watch more than the first few seconds of the Tamir Rice video, I’m taking yours and others’ words how quickly the rookie acted. All I saw was a kid doing imaginative play on a deserted-looking sidewalk.
What I’ve been wondering is, what role did his partner play? Should I assume the other cop wasn’t a rookie, that he was more experienced and supposed to be mentoring the newbie? Not excusing the rookie at all, just want to know what the other cop was thinking/doing. In my mind, he is just as responsible since they drove up together.
@Matt McIrvin: Convenience store clerks manage to deal with this. In fact, just about anyone who works retail does, as does anyone who works in the frnot-of-the-house parts of banking.
I’ve noticed no one has pointed out another huge problem: the police departments funding themselves off of the citizenry that they police. I know that is true for Ferguson and the whole ‘civil forfeiture’ thing other departments have going seems to turn the cops into a gang shaking down the civvies for the goods. That has to stop as of yesterday.
@aimai: None of us were quiet about it, even to his face. I don’t think the problem is librarians bitching at their desks.
Tone In DC
This pants shitting mindset has been around for a decade, if not four or five. Definitely agree that many of these cops are more terrified (speaking generally) than the general populace.
Dog whistle alert. Any law enforcement offical who uses the term “bad guys” should be immediately fired. Law enforcement is to deal with the illegal things people do. The term creates a situation in which a ‘bad guy” can be dealth with harshly whether they do anything illegal or not.
For as long as it continues to piss you off, jackass.
@burnspbesq: If this is you Son of Steve Cole how many other sock puppet accounts do you have?
First, we arm everyone to the teeth. Then the cops feel that they are totally unprepared and insecure since anyone can have a gun. Its a circular reality. Add to that — many police officers were formerly in the military and have been insufficiently “re-programmed” or trained away from the psychology of an army of occupation.
Its all so depressing! I can’t remember ever being so depressed about this country… ever.
Another Holocene Human
A-yup. Colonialism comes home. But only for “those people”.
Another Holocene Human
This was all known in the 80s but we the people thought it was okay because drug lords. Or because that’s the way it’s always been. Or because we reformed the system and fines can be replaced with community service, no problem to see here.
My guess is that for things to really change there will have to be a huge turnover in police personnel. I’m afraid the majority of people currently serving as police officers won’t be susceptible to “re-education.” Violent thugs aren’t going to stop being violent thugs after a little sensitivity training.
How likely is a wholesale change in police personnel? I’d put the likelihood at near zero.
Then, the question is what can be done with the current people working as police officers? We have to start by making every instance of police violence and over-reaction publicly criticized. Local news programmers have to be convinced that police brutality is a bright shiny object worth their attention.
Then, certainly, there will have to be some, that is, a lot, of high profile indictments and convictions before anything changes.
I have no idea what to do about all the white racists (who donate money to defend police thugs). Apparently, they’ll never go away.
always on while on duty body cams with sound for all cops and all police cars. mandatory encrypted archiving of the footage by the department with unencrypted gps information. when there’s a complaint, the cop needs to decrypt the footage. failure to make the footage available by the cop or the camera was ‘accidently blocked’ means a presumption against the cop.
Also, all police must have their badge number clearly showing- front and rear. And if they are wearing helmets becouse riot police, then on top of the helmet too.
It makes me sick to my stomach seeing some cop in body armor who’s completely unidentifiable beat the shit out of some unfortunate person.
Confusing me for Cole is (as anyone who has been around here for more than three days will attest) a sure sign of terminal cluelessness.
But we knew that about you already.
challenges posed by “mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.”
HOLY FREAKIN’ COW! The white hunters are murdering unarmed people of color in cold blood and walking scott-free. “Mistrust” has to be the understatement of the year-decade-century. “scared sh*tless” would be more like it.